There’s only one game I remember. We called it “Mixer.” We’d run in circles on our parents’ bed while our mom turned on and off the vacuum cleaner, making the sound that we thought was similar to the Kitchenaid stand mixer that we were pretending to be inside as we ran in circles. Thinking back, this was incredibly forbidden. Not only were we in our parents’ room, but we were on the bed. Standing. Running! The impeccably-made bed with the blue-green bedspread. With our bare feet.
That was the only game.
My kids have had it different. Until I started working from home and my Macbook became permanently attached to my lap, we played. Every day. Different games. Many games. I prided myself on being a different parent than mine, who were strict and unemotional. A better parent.
But is it really better?
As kids, we were pretty self-sufficient. Summer days stretched into evenings, and we’d still be outside riding our bikes down by the arroyo or climbing Boot Hill or playing tag with the neighborhood kids, all of whom would be out every summer evening after dinner. We’d run into the house, flip-flops flapping, to gulp cold Dixie cups of orange Kool-Aid or refill our water pistols or grab our skate keys. We didn’t play with our parents because they didn’t play with us. It wasn’t expected.
I’m of two minds about this.
One. Yes, I sort of still feel hurt that my parents weren’t fun. Can’t help that. It happened. Yes, I wanted to be better than that, different.
Two. I love that we were on our own and it was okay. Have times really changed? There have been days when two of my kids, 6 and 10 at the time, were outside in the yard or just beyond the yard in the prairie beyond or across the street at the park, all day. Sure, I glanced out the window and listened for their voices. All day long. You do too.
Three. (Okay, I’m of more than two minds.) Are kids now losing their ability for self-sufficiency? They expect us to entertain them, or the XBox or the Wii or the Nintendo DS or Noggin to entertain them. We let this happen. And we feel guilty if we don’t spend enough “quality” time with our kids. Who did this to us? We did. For me, it’s a rebound thing. I felt cheated, so BOOM my kids are going to have it different. Sound familiar?
Four. Kids are fun. Truth be told, most of the time it’s really fun to play with my kids. I’d rather dance around the livingroom than cook dinner or work. Wouldn’t you? We don’t carry the same kid-parent barriers that we had as kids, most of us. The lines are drawn differently now. I would have considered sleeping in my parents’ bed completely inappropriate (mainly from their discomfort), but most of my kids co-slept with me (not all at once. You have to draw the line somewhere, and that line’s different for everyone, but … no). On the other hand, I’d rather stab my eye repeatedly with a fork than play another game of Candyland.
How does play work in your house? Do you play with your kids? Is there a line drawn somewhere, and if so, where?
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